(Certified Best Practice by BMPCOE)
Polaroid Corporation - Waltham, MA
Polaroid makes chemical reagents for various coatings and developers. In the past, perators would weigh out the chemicals, place the amount into a plastic bag, and record the chemical name and weight on the plastic bag's label. This process depended solely on the operator to ensure that each chemical was correctly labeled and weighed for each batch. Implemented in 1992 and improved in 1996, Polaroid established a new labeling system which makes the process almost foolproof by bar coding the information required for each chemical. The operator scans the bar code into the computer that displays the weight amount needed and then produces a bar code containing information for the next stage in the process.
Polaroid's chemical labeling process runs on a customized computer software package. Personnel connected with the process worked with a programmer to design each specific module for the process. The computer system can track a chemical from the time it enters the building as raw material until it leaves the building as a final product. In addition, the system includes all hazard communication (HAZCOM) information as part of the bar code label.
Upon receiving a product from the chemical manufacturing division, the operator scans the bar code. The computer system creates a new bar code, with all the HAZCOM information and directions for using the product, and places it over the original bar code. The new bar code remains on the chemical's package until the raw product is completely used. In cases where the package is large enough (e.g., drum), a safety HAZCOM sticker will also be produced and placed on the container next to the new bar code.
Once the new bar code is placed on its package, the chemical goes to the next operator who scans the bar code and receives information on the amount needed for a batch. If the bar code displays an incorrect lot number or chemical, the computer will alert the operator not to use this product. After weighing out the proper amount, the operator places the measured chemical into a plastic bag and attaches a bar code which describes the contents. Measured ingredients for a designated batch are placed on a cart and sent to the mixing vats. The operator then scans each measured ingredient's bar code before placing it into the vat. Upon completion of the final product, the operator places a new bar code on the vessel that holds the product. This bar code contains encoded lot numbers which identify the source and batch of each chemical used. After a final product is used up, its bar code is removed and its vessel is cleaned for reuse.
By using bar codes, Polaroid's chemical labeling process improves the tracking of chemicals at each stage of its use and reduces operator error on weighing amounts. The computer system stores all pertinent information which can be accessed by authorized personnel (e.g., process engineers, operators, safety personnel), allowing for a more accurate chemical inventory. Major cost savings have resulted by virtually eliminating substandard batches, which in turn reduced scrap rates.